How Scottie Pippen almost became a member of the Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers were the most dominant team in the league from 1999-2002. They won three straight titles behind Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, and they are still widely considered one of the best squads in the history of the NBA.
But can you believe that six-time champion Scottie Pippen almost joined the purple and gold back in 1999?
Yep, you heard it right.
Here’s what happened.
After the Chicago Bulls won their sixth title, the dynasty broke up, with Pippen getting traded to the Houston Rockets during the summer of 1998. On paper, his arrival in Houston made them one of the best teams in the league at that time. The Rockets already had Charles Barkley and Hakeem Olajuwon, so adding Pippen just added more firepower, even if he was starting to reach the end of the line.
But Pippen didn’t stay long with the Rockets. It was clear right from the beginning that he didn’t fit well with the team, which led to him being traded to the Portland Trail Blazers right before the 1999-2000 season.
Now this is where it gets interesting.
In an article written by Landon Hall for The Washington Post back in 1999, it was noted that Pippen actually wanted to go to the Lakers to reunite with old coach Phil Jackson. There were even rumors suggesting the Blazers would simply flip Pippen to the Lakers, but nothing came to fruition:
Pippen’s first choice for a new team was the Los Angeles Lakers, where he would have rejoined former Bulls coach Phil Jackson. There was speculation that Portland might turn around and trade Pippen to the Lakers for Glen Rice and other players – speculation that figures to continue through the season – but on Saturday the Blazers were talking about Pippen being a part of their drive for a title.
Apparently, it wasn’t the Blazers who declined to make the trade happen:
The Lakers considered offering Rice, Robert Horry and Travis Knight, but ultimately declined.
Had the trade to send Scottie Pippen to the Lakers pushed through, he would have formed a “Big Three” with O’Neal and Bryant, who went on to win the title for three straight seasons.
Instead, Pippen remained with the Blazers, who gave the Lakers a run for their money during the 2000 playoffs.
The Lakers and Blazers met in the Western Conference Finals in 2000, and while Los Angeles emerged as the winners following a grueling seven-game series, there was no doubt that Portland was their toughest opponent throughout the course of the playoffs.
Both squads would meet in the playoffs again in 2001 and 2002, with the Blazers getting swept in the first round both times.
Pippen did not win a title in Portland. He finished his career in Chicago before calling it quits at the end of the 2003-04 season.
If Pippen wanted to, he could’ve pushed the Blazers to trade him to the Lakers, and he would’ve made them a more formidable team than they already were with Shaq and Kobe. He would’ve fit perfectly with the purple and gold’s triangle offense because it was the same system Phil Jackson used to lead the Bulls to six titles in eight years.
But Scottie Pippen was fine spending his final good years in Portland. It didn’t end the way Pippen wanted it to, but he definitely made the Blazers a better team.
Just not good enough to beat the Lakers.